“One person with courage is a majority.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Too many people are not thriving in life. They are barely surviving and are unable to finish the race of faith well. I remember what my professor said my freshman year in college: “Look to your left and to your right, only one of you will be here in four years.” Thinking it was only a scare tactic, I realized the truth in what he said when my two freshman roommates didn’t make it to their second semester! And the same can be said about life; too many people are not living well and not ending well. It is only the few who are finishing well, and too many great, talented leaders are crashing and burning.
In life, all of us experience four things: Opportunity, Opposition, Obedience and Outcome. We all have opportunities to love, serve and reach others in our community and on the mission field. Clearly, we each face opposition that will do whatever it takes to stop us from finishing well. There is obedience to the calling God puts in our life and to live worthy of the gospel. And there will be a clear outcome as we serve faithfully. When we truly understand this concept, we can minister courageously despite the circumstances.
When I spend time with our international leaders in their communities, I am struck with the reality that tougher circumstances create greater courage and resolve to finish well. As sacrifice and surrender increase, there is greater obedience to trust and obey. I have met leaders from around the world that are finishing well despite the enormous challenges and overwhelming circumstances, because they are fully devoted to the calling that God has put in their lives. These men and women are my heroes. Let’s take a closer look at the 4 O’s.
Where do Opportunities come from?
Have you ever heard the phrase, “God is opening a door?” Do all opportunities come from God? It’s hard to believe that even though we have great abilities and gifts, and we have worked hard to get an open door, it is God who orchestrates and provides the opportunities. It is important for us to know that God gives and takes away opportunities. He will use us, but opportunities are God’s part, not ours.
Oftentimes, we hesitate to walk through these open doors of opportunity. We wait for confirmation before we make our move. We want to be certain that everything will work out just right. All we have to do is walk through it, right? Whatever is on the other side will work out perfectly. When we know the open door of opportunity is from God, we think nothing will stand in our way.
What about Opposition?
Could that be waiting for us as well? Paul seems to see it that way and even expects it. In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, he writes, “But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”
Oftentimes, we equate the moving of God with blessings, easy roads and clear sailing. When things don’t go well, we question: Did I make a mistake? Did I hear God correctly? Should I even be on this mission trip? But clear sailing is not the kind of open door we often experience, is it? Walking in step with the Holy Spirit is not an opposition-free road. In fact, it’s often just the opposite!
“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”
– Acts 20:22
Courage is proven true only when tested. Paul is being led by the Holy Spirit through open doors of tremendous opportunity, yet great opposition awaited him. He faced prison and beatings–two things we are unlikely to encounter. Instead, we have three main competitors. Their names are World, Flesh and Devil. Each one is a formidable opponent and has only one goal – to keep you from crossing the finish line. The World will distract you, causing you to focus your interests on matters and issues that don’t really count for eternity. The Flesh will delude you, turning your attention away from serving others and toward taking care of yourself, convincing you that there’s nothing as important as having your needs met. The Devil seeks to destroy you by finding your weaknesses and exploiting them. And your opposition doesn’t care how you go down, just as long as you give up.
Obedience is when courage shows up.
Paul still obeyed God’s voice and walked through the open door. When the going gets tough, the tough start obeying! Joshua 1:9 says, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Sometimes we shy away from the open door of opportunity, because we can see the opposition. Could God be leading you into an opportunity that requires courage? Or could it be an opportunity that requires obedience that sometimes confounds common sense? That sounds like a God-sized opportunity to me! Instead of leaning away, we need to lean in—that’s when obedience kicks in.
“God is not looking for nibblers of the possible, but the grabbers of the impossible.”
– C.T. Studd (Missionary to China and Africa)
The easy opportunity is for passive people: those pleasure-seekers, comfort-zoners and buck-passers. The challenging opportunity is for purpose people: the mission-finders, boundary-pushers and shot-takers. They realize God-sized opportunities require God-sized courage that only He can give! Living courageously is not about personal happiness, comfort or convenience. Courageous living requires obedience to walk with the Spirit through the open doors of opportunity, even in the face of opposition. Obedience must be our response. At the end of the day, we must trust and obey, for there is no other way.
“One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The fourth “O” is Outcomes, and they are God’s business, not ours.
It is the God of the universe who is responsible for how things turn out. When we are obedient, we can rest in His results. There is peace when we know that the Lord of the Harvest is taking care of the outcome. Either He is in control of the results or we are. We must always remind ourselves that the outcome is God’s department.
“The source of our courage is more important than our ability to muster up self-confidence.” Thomas Jefferson almost got it right. But we know that nothing is impossible with God. Are we expecting God to open doors of Opportunities? Let’s not shrink back when the Opposition comes! Let’s be courageous and walk in courageous Obedience – step for step with the Spirit. Then we can trust the Lord for the Outcomes.
Father, I ask for wisdom, discernment and understanding. Help me to realize that all things come from You alone. You are so good, generous and gracious. When the opposition comes, help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Give me God-sized courage to obey, because I will trust and obey for, there is no other way. And finally, I will celebrate the outcome – no matter what. Thank you Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.